UK women's SEC title hopes take a hit after 77-72 loss at LSU

jsmith3@herald-leader.comFebruary 24, 2013 

Kentucky LSU Basketball

LSU forward Shanece McKinney, left, and Kentucky guard Kastine Evans vie for control of a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

BILL FEIG — AP

  • Kentucky at Mississippi

    When: 8 p.m. Thursday

BATON ROUGE, La. — Nearly every game since Jeanne Kenney was a little girl, she'd glance up into the stands and see her grandfather there.

"I remember every time I would look up and we would catch eyes, he would just give me a little salute," the Louisiana State guard said, extending her hand from her forehead with a slight smile.

Kenney's grandfather, Cliff Beaulieu, wasn't in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center when the Tigers upset No. 8 Kentucky 77-72 on Sunday afternoon, but Kenney gave him an amazing salute nonetheless.

Less than a week after her grandfather died, Kenney hit all five three-pointers she attempted and scored a career-high 22 points. Coming into the game, the junior had made just 10 from long range all season.

Kenney did all of this hobbled by a foot injury and still reeling emotionally after missing Beaulieu's funeral while the Tigers were snowed in at Missouri. LSU had less than 48 hours to turn around from its overtime win in Columbia.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," Kenney said. "We needed this win and I was going to play. I needed my team and my team needed me."

Kenney's biggest shot of the day, a three-pointer, came with 3:50 to go, just 16 seconds after UK's A'dia Mathies had evened the score 64-64 with her reverse layin.

"She just made some huge plays for us on the offensive end," LSU Coach Nikki Caldwell said of Kenney, from Baton Rouge. "Her presence on the floor was definitely felt by her teammates."

The Cats clawed back from 13 points down late in the first half but never could regain the lead.

"We did a good job fighting back to get in that position, but we just had a whole bunch of mental lapses at the end of the game," said Mathies, who led UK with 20 points and six rebounds.

"I didn't think we played poorly, but in a game like today, you have to be razor sharp and we weren't," said UK Coach Matthew Mitchell, whose team is now two games back in the race for a second straight Southeastern Conference regular-season title. "We were just pretty good."

The win likely helped the NCAA Tournament bubble-straddling Tigers get into the field. Even though they only had eight players available due to injuries, illnesses and suspensions, LSU played like a team on that mission.

"LSU just played a great game of basketball and executed at the crucial moments," Mitchell said. "They had a really good day on offense and we just couldn't slow them down."

The Tigers had four players in double figures, including Theresa Plaisance, who recorded her first career SEC double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Bianca Lutley added 15 points and Danielle Ballard 10 points and five boards for LSU, which has beaten Kentucky in three of the last four meetings.

Plaisance said the key was slowing it down on offense, especially for the short-handed Tigers.

"It's all about patience," she said. "We just have to take them out of their comfort zone by playing our game and being patient with what we do."

LSU (17-10, 8-6) was especially effective in the first half when it used a 21-6 run to grab its largest lead of the game, 43-30. Eleven points in that rally came from Kenney, who had scored in double figures just once in SEC play.

Kentucky's highly touted defense looked less than spectacular in the first 20 minutes, allowing the Tigers to shoot 64 percent from the field and 83.3 percent (5-for-6) from three-point range.

For the game, LSU shot 52.9 percent from the field, the second-highest mark for a UK opponent all season.

"LSU played a terrific game and it wasn't like we just laid down and didn't show any effort," Mitchell said. "We played hard and battled back, but you have to go back to the first half and figure out what we could have done to not dig ourselves a hole like that."

Mathies, who was held to four points in the first half, scored six straight to open the second and get UK back within striking distance. But each time Kentucky got close, the Tigers would answer. They made 10 of 15 foul shots in the second half.

UK only attempted 10 free throws for the game.

"If you look at the foul shots, we were clearly the more physical team and we paid for it," Mitchell said. "Any time they make more shots than you attempt, that's a really, really difficult stat to overcome."

Kentucky (23-4, 11-3) got 15 points from Jennifer O'Neill and 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals from junior forward Samarie Walker.

With two games to go, the Cats' odds of defending their SEC regular-season title are long. They are now in a three-way tie for second place with Texas A&M and Georgia.


Thursday

Kentucky at Mississippi

When: 8 p.m.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com

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